Why #athletes make great #Project team members #PMOT #DnD

I was attending a Manitoba Coaches meeting last week we were discussing the topic of Emotional Intelligence in both leaders and teammates. Emotional Intelligence is usually discussed in conjunction with the ‘soft skills’ that people have.

Emotional Intelligence is usually defined as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. ”

There are four fundamental aspects of Emotional Intelligence : Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.

Although Emotional Intelligence can be augmented through training and education, there is the acknowledgement that some people have a propensity to have high Emotional Intelligence. The usual Nature/Nurture discussion arose and it was agreed that Emotional Intelligence is usually built through the relationships that people have in their early years.

Epiphany

It was discussed that people who are Emotionally Intelligent are proficient at:

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Accountability
  • Independence
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Listening
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Managing their Emotions

I had an epiphany that team sports is one of the few things that provide consistent, repeated, and evolutionary experiences in most, if not all, of the characteristics listed above that Emotionally Intelligent people excel in. Team mates experience and grow in all of the proficiencies listed above due to the nature of team sports and shared purpose.

In particular, team sports are one of the few activities where peers hold each other accountable, manage conflict, problem solve, manage their emotions, and take turns leading in their own way.

Summary

Team sports are critical not only for physical and mental health, but also project health. Great project team mates have usually been great team mates previously in all sorts of sports.

The lesson? If your children want to be developers, sign them up for Hockey, Baseball, Basketball, and Volleyball. Their future team mates will thank you later.

If they really don’t like sports of any kind, get them to play Dungeons and Dragons. And the computer D&D games don’t count. They need to sit down with friends and learn how to co-operate and deal with looking each other in the eye when they betray or disappoint each other.

That’s accountability – Nerd Style.

The Future of #AI Augmented Project Management is misguided #PMOT #Agile

robot

I haven’t read a Project Management article for a long time that spurred me to write a bog entry within 24 hours. I had that experience yesterday after reading The Augmented Project Manager by Treb Gatte. This article provided an introduction to the interesting application of Artificial Intelligence to the Project Management role.

Treb discussing the three areas of Project Management that could be affected by the application of Artificial Intelligence:

  • Planning
  • Resource Allocation
  • Tracking

Planning

Treb discuss the future of AI Augmented Project Planning:

“Imagine if your scheduling bot generates a proposed project plan, based on the aggregated and anonymized experiences of similar sized companies doing the same type of project. Today, we use tools like Monte Carlo to simulate this information. The bot could incorporate real world data, potentially yielding better results.”

Let that thought percolate while we moved onto Resource Allocation.

Resource Allocation

Treb then illustrates the possible future of Resource Allocation:

“For example, your resourcing bot determines that you need a social media expert on your project on April 5th for two days of work. It searches data sources like LinkedIn and your public cloud calendar to find a list of suitable and available candidates. Three are West Coast of the U.S., one is in Paris and one is in Sydney. It then automatically reaches out to these candidates with offers. If multiple people accept, it automatically manages the negotiation. Once complete, the planning bot is informed, a virtual desktop with requisite software is provisioned, user login credentials are generated and the specific task information is sent to them. When the job is complete and rated as satisfactory, the bot coordinates with your accounts payable system to pay the freelancer. The planning bot automatically updates the plan and pushes the data to the BI dashboards.”

I’m not sure this illustration involves much Artificial Intelligence as it really if just about integrating with existing technologies and platforms – but I digress.

Tracking

And then finally Treb discusses what the future of AI Augmented Project Tracking might look like:

“Project feedback loops on work are awful. The largest challenge is incomplete data, which results from increasingly fragmented work days, limits of the worker’s memory and tools that rely on human input. It is also incomplete as it serves little benefit to the person entering the data.

Workers are overwhelmed with tasks arriving via multiple communication channels and no consolidated view.

Imagine a world where the timesheet is antiquated. Today, we have systems such as Microsoft Delve that know what content you’ve touched. We have IP-based communication systems that know what collaborations you’ve conducted. We have machine learning capabilities that can determine what you’ve discussed and the content of the documents you’ve edited. This week, we have facial recognition capabilities and other features that can track and interpret your movements. Given all of this, why is a timesheet necessary?”

Opinion

Oh boy, where to start? It seems like most of focus of AI Augmented Project Management seems to be on the collection of data that will make the results better.

  • “If we have better historical data, we can plan better”
  • “If we have better, faster access to resources, we can complete tasks better and faster”
  • “If we have better real-time data on tasks, we can report status and adapt better”

The Problem

The problem was all of these perspectives is they seem to be promoting, advocating, and recommending less human interaction between Project Managers and their teams. If we only had AI augmented Project Management, we can go back to our closed doors and avoid the pesky human interactions. Agile Project Managers realize that human interaction is he crucible of project success – AI Augmented Project Management seems to have forgotten that.

Yes, planning is hard.

Yes, resourcing and building high-performing teams are hard.

Yes, tracking and adapting the project is difficult.

But the answer is more interaction, communication, coaching, caring, and collaboration. Not less.

I’ve even seen another article promoting that chatbots could help to get status updates from team members. Oh yeah, that will greatly improve communication of information. Developers will just love getting the impersonal 9:03 am greeting of “What are you planning to do today, what did you complete yesterday?”

Summary

I believe the idea of AI Augmented Project Management will end up on the trash heap with the CASE tools that were going to replace developers in the 80’s, Artificial Intelligence can assist augmenting individual competencies, but not replacing team communication, interaction, and problem solving. Perhaps, there is a role for Artificial Intelligence in reviewing plans and highlighting possible areas of concern regarding scheduling or estimation that a human can review. But the automated  creation of plans, resource allocation, task assignment, and task tracking is misguided.

The idea that worthy Project Manager work is stakeholder management,  but not team collaboration, engagement and communication is wrong.

Software Development is a team sport, and requires collaboration, communication, and engagement to plan, resource, and adjust. The idea that you can broadcast the skills you need and just drop a resource in to do a task and not worry about culture, fit, team dynamics, and personalities is pure hubris. These are people working on complex, nasty problems. They need time to gel, bond, and collaborate.

Sports is frequently identified as an area Artificial Intelligence has helped. Absolutely. Artificial Intelligence can refine skills like throwing a football and shooting a puck. Assisting in team dynamics and planning remains elusive. Coaches still call the plays and adjust plans. Even coaches that leverage technology realize that…

 

Best #Coaching book ever! #TheCoachingHabit www.boxofcrayons.com/the-coaching-habit-book

I must admit when I was strolling through Indigo the other day, I wasn’t looking for a coaching book. In fact, it wasn’t even on my mind. I was there to buy my son a book because he left his copy at school and needed to finish reading the book by Monday. (Sound familiar, parents?)

So while my son tried to find his book, I sauntered over to the business book section and came across this little gem.

Two Reasons

This book is a gem for two reasons; the content is awesome and the author can actually write. I point this out because I usually slog through business books because the content is great, but the delivery is lacking. This book was very different, I picked it up on a Sunday and finished it on Wednesday. The book to easy to read, has great anecdotes throughout, and also a sense of humour to lighten the mood.

Michael Bungay Steiner introduces the 7 questions that are key to a coaching discussion. I won’t go into exquisite detail here as I want you to run out and buy the book. But he starts off with the Kickstart question of “What’s on your mind?” and concludes it with the Learning question of “What was most useful for you?”. I don’t believe I have seen a Coaching method or book that includes a step for reflection and a retrospective. That combined with the question of asking “So what is the real challenge for you?” helps to cut through gossip, complaining, and unproductive coaching sessions/meetings. In short, this book is a must have for every manager and aspiring coach.

You even get a bonus of a brilliant 5 step method of facilitating a Strategy discussion. But I’m not going to tell you what it is, you have to run out and buy the book. There even is a complete set of entertaining videos to complement the chapters and reinforce the learning.

Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore or amazon.

 

The #Two traits great #Managers have #PMOT #Coach

Managers and management in general usually have a bad reputation. That is probably  doubly so for middle managers. These roles are usually the first ones identified for job reduction and attrition. Why is this? Truth be told, it is an exceptionally difficult role that not many people excel at. Usually people excel at one aspect or another of the role, but not at all of the aspects.

What makes a great manager?

So what makes a great manager? The manager must be an agent for the decisions and directions that come from above AND be an advocate for the teams that ultimately execute the work. Unfortunately, most managers tend to primarily identify with either agency or advocacy, but not both. Most managers focus their effort on managing the teams, but not managing the executives. Managing-up is one of the most difficult and challenging skills and most also be welcomed by the culture of the organization.

It is a delicate balancing act that experienced managers deftly handle – the right balance of agency and advocacy that promotes high-performing teams both above and below them. If this balance is not appropriate the manager usually defaults to just concentrating on one or the other – to the detriment of both executives and teams.

But when a manager has the right balance, they build credibility with both executives and teams. Once that credibility is built, the managers are then invited in to discussion and designs to influence, contribute, coach, innovate, and inspire both executives and teams.

Two Traits

The two traits that a manager or Project Manager must have to reach this level of proficiency are Business Knowledge and Realization Knowledge.

  • The manager or Project Manager must understand the business domain, business strategy, and culture of the organization they are an agent for. Why does the Business Exist? What is the Strategic Plan? Who are their internal and external clients? Who are their competitors? What are their values and principles?
  • The manager of Project Manager must also understand the realization domain and implementation processes as well. Whether the realization practice be accounting, engineering, software development, or teaching – the manager needs to understand the work and the profession. How do we implement changes? What professional skills are required? Who are the experts and why? What are the industry-accepted best practices? What are the new methods and technologies on the horizon? What practices are no longer being used?

Only when the manager has both these traits, will they have the credibility to be invited in, contribute, coach, influence, and help to innovate the strategy of the business and the implementation of business initiatives.

This is a not an easy combination to achieve and the lack of the these traits can lead to just ‘paper-pushing’ as the manager doesn’t have the credibility or knowledge to do more. Most times a manager may have one or the other trait and while this is beneficial, true high-performing teams arise when the manager or Project Manager has both.

Our responsibilities as managers is not to just perform administrative duties, but to relentlessly inquire and learn both about the business domain and the realization domain. Only then will the manager be an integral member that makes the executive and team members better by coaching up and down.

Student of the Game #PMOT #NHLJETS @srogalsky @MarkScheifele55

As I sit down to author my first Blog entry of 2019, I reviewed my recent Blogs. Although I knew I hadn’t Blogged for a while, I wasn’t aware that I had not Blogged since July 2018. I had gotten quite busy in my new role of Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba, but I was unaware just how busy I had become. So one of my resolutions for 2019 is to create a new Blog entry every month.

In hindsight, joining the University of Manitoba was one of the best career moves I have ever made. I have grown immensely over the last 2+ years and learned so much from colleagues both within Information Services and Technology and with external units and faculties. I would highly recommend the experience working in Higher Education. The people are brilliant problem solvers and the problems are complicated and have high impact. But that isn’t the reason for this first post of 2019.

Student of the Game

I was fortunate enough to have worked with Red River College during my career and was honoured to be invited to Keynote the BTM Tech mash-up they were putting on. All I had to do was come up with a topic! I talked about options with the organizers and we discussed presenting on how projects are managed at the University of Manitoba and how the work environment is different between Private Companies, Government. Consulting, and Higher Education. I still wanted something to leave with the students in regards to habits and practices of successful team mates. I eventually landed on a Student of the Game summary at the end of the presentation. I remember talking multiple times with Steve Rogalsky on the concept of Student of the Game, We both had felt it described a set of behaviours that were inherent in all the great team mates we had worked with. Even better I was going to connect it with Mark Scheifele for a Winnipeg Jets connection. I think I had a winner!

So what do we refer to when Steve and I mentioned team mates that were “students of the game”? I came across a great article “How to become a Student of the Game” by Anthony Iannarino. In this article, Tony makes the following three excellent points:

  1. Study the Fundamentals
    • The best performers in any endeavor spend a great deal of time studying the fundamentals. They read, study, and practice the basics. The best performers are willing to spend time on the plateaus, plugging away at the basics, even when it feels like they aren’t making any real progress.
  2. Make Distinctions
    • Reading, studying, and practicing are what allow high performers to make distinctions. They start to notice things. They notice things about themselves, and they notice things about others. They start to see how tiny changes produce outsized results.
  3. Teaching and Learning
    • The highest performers seek out teachers. They know that someone who has already had the experiences and made the distinctions can help them understand their own experiences and make their own distinctions. They’re excited about the prospect of someone facilitating their learning.
    • These high performers also learn by teaching others. The very act of sharing what you have learned takes your mastery to new levels. It means you have to think deeply about the how, what, and why something works.

Mark Scheifele

I then connected the concept of “Student of the Game” with Mark Scheifele and reviewed how Mark is a great example of being a “Student of the Game”

  • Selected 7th overall in 2011 in NHL Entry draft
  • Sought out Dale Hawerchuk at 17 to seek advice and counsel
  • Added Hall of Famer and skills coach Adam Oates to his off-season workouts
  • Attended Gary Roberts Summer Hockey Boot Camps every year for 6 years
  • Never swears on the ice – Respect for the Game

Summary

I added the connection to Mark Scheifele because of the concept of having Respect for the Game. This is something Tony did not mention but I think is critical for being a Student of the Game. The presentation even allowed me to connect the “Student of the Game” concept to the Agile Principles!

  • Continuous Learning
    • Find a Mentor or Role Model
    • Get on Twitter – follow other experts and read
  • Reflection
    • Review your work and others to spot opportunities
  • Collaborate and Learn from others
    • Review others work and practices
    • We are smarter than me
  • No Ego
    • Be respectful of others and their contributions
    • Understand that there are always things to learn and get better at
  • Be Brave to be wrong
    • Help to create a safe space to experiment

All in all, I think this presentation touched all the bases and it was very well received. I encourage you to read Anthony Iannarino’s article and watch a Winnipeg Jets game. GO JETS GO!

 

How #Empathy is fixing #Canada

I’ve talked about how Empathy is so important in understanding client needs in the past, how Empathy is important to understand what a client really requires and needs. The other side of Empathy is understanding what your team requires.

Ultimately, Empathy results in Prosocial behaviour. Prosocial is a term I only recently came across. Let’s quickly review the definition from Wikipedia:

Prosocial behavior –  “is a social behaviour that “benefit[s] other people or society as a whole, such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating, and volunteering. Obeying the rules and conforming to socially accepted behaviors (such as stopping at a “Stop” sign or paying for groceries) are also regarded as prosocial behaviors. These actions may be motivated by empathy and by concern about the welfare and rights of others”

Ultimately this describes team behaviour and client service focus that we like to see in our project teams.

Canada

My country has always prided itself with having a good global conscience. But really until the last little while we have not shown ourselves to be empathetic at home. Let me call attention to a couple of recent news items. The tragedies of missing and murdered aboriginal women is the first item. For the longest time, the media and the majority of Canada have spent a lot of our efforts trying to state why this is someone else’s problem. We haven’t really empathized with the problem. We have hidden behind the fact that the situation was created by our ancestors and not us. In short, we felt comfortable doing nothing unless we were directly responsible. Myself included. 😦

Let’s review the definition of Empathy again:

Empathy – “is the capacity to understand or feel what another being (a human or non-human animal) is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”

We haven’t truly put ourselves in the shoes of the aboriginal families and really felt their pain. Recently we are starting. Canada has become outraged that this is happening and everyone has demanded as a whole that this be fixed now. Finally we have exhibited Prosocial behaviour and demanded that this is fixed even when it will result in no personal gain. In some way we are demanding change that will even hurt us by taking money and attention away from other priorities. But we understand that it is the right thing to do. Maybe we are finally gaining some true Empathy.

A similar occurrence has happened recently with the Freedom Road that is finally being built to address a long-standing injustice committed against Shoal Lake #40 First Nations who were isolated by the city of Winnipeg building an aqueduct in 1915. How it took 100 years for our community to become Empathetic and outraged at this situation is unbelievable. But at least now it is being addressed. Finally we have become empathetic and are being Prosocial with our demands from our politicians.

We can even see this recently with our neighbours from the south. For the longest time the United States were content to also determine excuses as to why the number of murdered black men were not a problem. Everyone investigated the victim’s past history, looked in their behaviour that night, and also said much of the violence was black man on black man so certainly there is no racism issue. Finally the United States is demonstrating Prosocial behaviour and also demanding that something be done to address these issues.

The truth is until large groups are willing to be Prosocial and take a stand on issues, they will never be addressed.

In retrospect, the majority of Canada was not empathetic to the massacre at École Polytechnique. 28 people were injured, with 14 Canadian women losing their lives that day. We grieved and mourned, but we didn’t truly empathize and demand action. The best we could muster in the past was Sympathy. We certainly have been sympathetic in the past but finally it seems Canada is learning how to be empathetic.

I see an interesting similarity with the Muslim people and countries around the world in relation to terrorism. Although people are sympathetic with the impact of terrorism, we haven’t yet reached an Empathy with the victims and seen Prosocial behaviours. Once we see those Prosocial behaviours, I have no doubt that the situation will greatly improve. Even with the recent tragedies in Paris, there is could be more we could do.

And I don’t believe building walls like Mr Trump proposes is a Prosocial behaviour. If anything, that is an Antisocial behaviour. By Prosocial behaviour I mean that we would see people independently organizing instead of assuming that it is only the Police’s job to stop terrorism.

Summary

Pretty heady topic for Christmas Eve, but it does relate back to our teams. Our high performing teams always are the ones that manage themselves and work together for the greater good and not just for what they need to individually accomplish. We are getting there. Nice to see our world is as well. 🙂

 

My #NoEstimates disappointment

I must admit I usually come right in the middle between No Estimates proponents and the traditional estimators. I usually like the process of estimating on my projects, but I certainly see the downsides of such estimates.

I also do think estimates and no estimates and Lean Start up are not mutually exclusive. I can still do estimating on a project that I am executing in a Lean Startup method. Sometimes I think we search too much for discrete and absolute answers.

Anyway, that wasn’t what disappointed my about No Estimates this weekend. Rather it was a link to this announcement.

My Opinion

If you haven’t clicked on the link, it is an announcement to a No Estimates workshop in October 2014. The link also asks for questions to be submitted to be answered in the session.

So why did this disappoint me?

I’m always disappointed when the pursuit of new ideas, methods, and practices become an economy. I’ve asked some questions of the presenters before and it was mentioned that they would add it to their list of questions and perhaps they would do a future blog post on the subject. Now it appears to get those answers I may need to attend a workshop in Europe. I’m disappointed because I was hoping to hear the answers to those questions other the next few months. Now perhaps I’m wrong and hopefully this workshop will not hinder the flow of ideas over the next few months. But there still does seem to be many questions out there that are unanswered.

For example, “What you you recommend I do first to try No Estimates on a project?”

I Wonder

I also wonder if the No Estimates workshop will be done in tune with No Estimates principles? For example:

1) Will a full price for the workshop be estimated and required up front? Can I attend for a day and leave for a day if the value I expect isn’t being realized? Can I pay day by day?

2) Will the workshop have a set agenda or can the attendees define the agenda in the first hour collaboratively?

3) Couldn’t we try to answer a few of the questions listed first and validate people would get value out of the session before committing a week of time, considerable training budget, and fossil fuel to jet to Europe?

It almost feels like a week-long workshop is against the principles of No Estimates.

Summary

I’m disappointed as I fear there may also be No Estimates certifications down the road ala PMI and Six Sigma.

But I fear that No Estimates will join the establishment of training courses and specialized consultants. No Estimates to me was always about challenging the establishment and not joining the establishment.

As Obi-Wan said in Revenge of the Sith – “You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them. You were to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness.”

Hopefully I’m mistaken.